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MASK 4 MASC

Gregg Bordowitz, Some Styles of Masculinity, 2018. Performance view, New Museum, New York, January 19, 2018. Photo: Chloe Foussianes.

IN MY FANTASY, Gregg Bordowitz is a famous maggid—a traveling mystical Jewish preacher—in town for a rare three-night engagement at the New Museum. We gather at sunset on Friday night, that sacred turning point in the week, settle into the building’s pungently lit auditorium, which is still, after all, a basement on the Bowery, and prepare to listen.

Bordowitz’s fantasy is different from mine, but not incompatible: We are the audience of The Benjamin Zev Show, a television variety program he has invented for this performance. Bordowitz hits the stage with a false start to the Yiddish swing of the Barry Sisters (he keeps outing their preassimilation name, the Bagelman Sisters), wearing a sharp suit that nods to Jewish TV funny guys Shelley Berman and Mort Sahl, and welcomes us, a preacher among preachers: “Rabbi [Douglas] Crimp! Rabbi [Pamela] Sneed! Rabbi [Amy] Sillman!

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